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Mojave Desert Indians - Historic Desert Indian Territories Map: Southern Paiute Indians

Double Loop Subsistence Strategy

The subsistence pattern reflected in the incomplete record of the late prehistoric and protohistoric Southern Paiute people suggests that the Las Vegas Paiutes adopted a different strategy than the commonly pictured, exclusively nomadic lifeway. Las Vegas Valley Southern Paiutes lived in an unusually productive eco-zone, with ample water resources that supported a wide variety of edible native plants and, most importantly, numerous and sometimes very extensive mesquite forests. Within the short distance of 20 miles from the valley floor, in the foothills of the Spring Mountains and other nearby ranges, grew substantial numbers of pinyon pines (Pinus monophylla), agaves (notably Agave utahensis), and Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) forests, interspersed with Mojave yuccas (Yucca schidigera) and other higher elevation plant resources, along with their associated fauna. The soil adjacent to the creeks and springs of the valley was suitable for horticulture, and the mesquite groves nearby produced a never-failing supply of edible, storable beans. The combination of rich resources located on the valley floor, which stimulated the growth of horticulture, and the collectible wild flora and fauna of the mountains close at hand made it possible to diverge from the seasonally based collecting rounds anthropologists usually portray for this area.

The seasonal round of the Las Vegas Paiutes had two fulcrums, one based in the valley, the other in the mountains. The loop based in the valley was dictated by the need to prepare and plant gardens, tend them, and harvest the produce, all augmented by the seasonal ripening of mesquite beans. Las Vegas Paiutes would camp at their spring sites during planting season, visiting their gardens to irrigate and control predation by animals and others. The second loop describes the period of movement to the foothills and higher mountain elevations in the warmer months and early fall, to gather, process, and store wild foods, including agave and pine nut “crops.” The excursions to the mountains headed to particular groves of trees or clusters of agaves or yuccas, entailing seasonal use of the same camps over many years. At the same time, the tie to the valley camps would also be maintained, and there, too, the campsites previously used would be revisited. Archaeologist Claude Warren termed this a “double loop” subsistence strategy (Warren 1981). Fowler recognized the difference between the seasonal rounds of the Southern Paiutes, who had mesquite resources, and the Northern Paiutes, who had none, but she did not give a name to the pattern (Fowler 1995). The elders consulted for this project remembered that, “although people would be up in the mountains gathering pine nuts, someone would be left to watch the fields near the springs”.

source: excerpts from; COYOTE NAMED THIS PLACE PAKONAPANTI - Elizabeth von Till Warren

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